The Hutterites, or Hutterian Brethren, are a communal, pacifist Christian sect who live mainly in Southern Canada and the Northern United States. There are approximately 49,000 Hutterites (as of 2011), living in 483 colonies (as of 2004). Since coming to the New World from the Ukraine in the 1870s, the Hutterites have sustained themselves mainly through agriculture, although they are beginning to return to manufactured goods out of economic necessity.
The history of the Hutterites is intertwined with the Protestant Reformation. As Anabaptists, the Hutterites share common roots with the Mennonites and the Amish. The group takes its name from Jakob Hutter, a Moravian Anabaptist pastor who was martyred in 1536 by King Ferdinand I of the Holy Roman Empire. Hutter’s followers emerged as the only fully communal representatives of the Anabaptist movement.
The Hutterites firmly hold to believer’s baptism for adults, pacifism, and living completely separate from the world.
The Hutterites practice communal living, where everyone puts their output “in” and takes “out” just what they need. In a colony, each family has an individual dwelling, usually including a yard, and household goods, but the buildings, equipment, land, and all monetary or material gain belong to the colony as a whole. The size of a colony is 100 people, on average. This number could represent as few as nine or ten families because of the large number of children per family. Hutterites base their social format on the facts that Jesus and His disciples shared a common moneybag (John 13:29) and that the early church in Jerusalem held everything in common (Acts 2:44-47 and 4:32-35).
Partly because of their pacifism and beliefs about baptism, and partly because of various European wars, the Hutterites have been forced to move a great deal since their founding in 1528 in the Tyrol province of Austria. Within a hundred years of Hutter’s death, the entire sect had been forced out of Moravia. From there, they spent time in Transylvania and Slovakia, then spent a short three years in Wallachia, a region of modern-day Romania, until the Russian government invited them to the Ukraine in 1770. One hundred years later, the group of 800—a small number compared to the 20,000 once living in Tyrol—had to leave when their military exemption was rescinded. The Hutterites proceeded to abandon Europe altogether, founding three colonies in the then-U.S. territory of South Dakota from 1874–77. This was not to be their last migration, however, as the U.S. also rescinded their military exemption for a time, beginning in 1918. Although some Hutterites slowly returned to the U.S., most now live in Canada.